In times of war, the flag has always gained prominence on the home front as a show of support for the men and women in harms way in the armed forces.
And as we support our troops, we must also reflect on our contributions to the safety of this country. More is expected of American citizens now. The vigilance we always expected of our soldiers we must now demand from ourselves and one another. We must now recognize our personal responsibility to be prepared in our communities and neighborhoods against hazards of all kinds.
Our flag no longer symbolizes only patriotism, but action too. Thats why, on Flag Day, we should embrace a new way to pledge allegiance: Citizen Corps.
Encompassing public education, training, and volunteer opportunities, Citizen Corps gives every American the chance to do their part to be better prepared and be better protected from crime, terrorism and disasters of all kinds.
What will Citizen Corps Councils do? Answers to that question will be as diverse as the communities and volunteers who create them. They will devise community wide emergency preparation and response plans. They will involve citizens to provide local firefighters and police an extra line of defense against emergencies through crime prevention and disaster preparedness training. They will educate schoolchildren on what to do if there is an emergency. They will create lines of communication among communities business, civic, religious, and volunteer leadership to make neighborhoods safer and stronger. They will implement federally sponsored programs such as Neighborhood Watch, Volunteers in Police Service, Medical Reserve Corps, and Community Emergency Response Teams.
Citizen Corps will help organize and train the new generation of citizens who emerged after Sept. 11, a generation of Americans who know that being a patriot still means flying Old Glory but now means so much more.
We must all be more aware and more responsible for preparing ourselves against the threats we face, from both natural disasters and from the hand of others. Spread the word. Get your friends and neighbors involved, too.
Americas military and first responders have already answered the call to service. This Flag Day, as a citizen, you can show your commitment too!
Fly the flag and visit the Citizen Corps website, http:// www.citizencorp.gov, to learn more about how you can be better prepared.
(Pam Tucker is director of Columbia Countys Community and Emergency Services Div-ision.)
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